This is a beautiful time of year in our area. After such a gentle winter, spring caught me by surprise.
Azaleas and tulips and dogwood are exploding in unexpected palettes of pink and lavender and sunny yellow. The oak trees are powdering porches with their soft green dust. Mother Nature mixes colors that might be too flamboyant if combined in our clothing or home décor. But she pulls it all off with an exquisite finesse.
In my Southside Columbus neighborhood some houses also seem more vibrant, reflecting the hues of the season. Annis Cox’s watermelon red cottage and Jennifer Miller’s opulent “Painted Lady” dazzle in the warm sunlight. Almost every home appears to wear lacy petticoats of lilies or hydrangeas.
Of course we can’t give all the credit for color and creativity to the season. Some of this beauty has the touch of human hands. I have fallen in love with stone sculptures that border the yard on one Southside bungalow. It is the home of Holly Krogh, Ross Whitwam, and their daughters Lucy and Henrietta.
The small piles of rock are organic constructions that could have magically emerged from the earth. I thought they may, perhaps, be a Stonehenge for fairies, or altars for leprechauns. I was wrong.
These constructions are “inukshuk,” an Inuit word which means “stone man that points the way.”
Ross told me, “I first encountered inuksuks … .driving to visit my sister and her family. They live in northern Ontario, and the drive up to see them involves some long, forlorn stretches of highway. Years ago, when I was making a visit I started seeing, every now and then and in totally random spots by the side of the highway, these carefully piled up rock structures that I now know are inuksuks.
I always found that a happy-making experience. On a lonely, largely bare stretch of highway with few signs of other people, to suddenly see something both natural (just rocks like all the other rocks around them) and human-made (artfully piled up in a way that could not occur randomly) was sort of like getting a friendly letter from someone you didn’t even know … ”
The Krogh-Whitwam home was built in the 1920s. It is a pale green stucco, with an inviting front porch. In the yard is a wealth of building stones, slate, brick and even small chunks of marble. With the help of Lucy and Henrietta, Ross has surrounded his yard with inuksuks. Some stones have a bit of Henrietta’s artistry. There is an image of a big-eyed bug, and a dark purple tulip. A single flower on a stem has the words “Still Life” painted in an arc above it.
An observant person might see other inuksuks scattered around the neighborhood. Ross and his daughters are responsible for those, as well.
He explains, “That is still the way I think inuksuks are experienced best — when you turn a corner, not really expecting anything, and suddenly see a little greeting someone has taken the time to make for you. I put the ones up all around my house mostly because I had so many chunks of rock and broken brick in my yard. But, I occasionally see a pile of stones around the neighborhood and use them to put up an inukshuk near that spot. They don’t last long — they fall over or get knocked down — but I like the idea of the inuksuks providing surprise greetings to passers-by, who stumble upon them before they tumble down.”
Soon The Golden Triangle will welcome our pilgrims. I hope that they enjoy the “happy-making” beauty of nature, and the creations of human hands.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. Email reaches her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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